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Nourish International

A Tribute to “Sopa de Caracol”

September 9, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Honduras, Michigan, UNC | By

It has been some time since our summer in Honduras, but with school getting off to a start with tons of fresh first-years, we have had the opportunity to share our experiences with new and familiar faces!  Our own Jonathan organized a Campus Y Summer Project Presentation Night, which gave the stage to various organizations in UNC’s Campus Y on Monday night, allowing them to showcase their experiences and share their perspective on verano 2008.

As part of the Nourish International Honduras presentation, Jonathan and I spoke to the crowd in the lounge, accompanied with a slideshow, and played this nifty video at the very end.  It’s very short (we budget time carefully), but I think it still captures the spice of the summer.  I wanted to share it on the blog for your viewing pleasure.  So, enjoy!

Find more videos like this on The Nourish Network

Que Viva Peru

August 11, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Peru, UNC | By

I have been back home in Charlotte for a little over a week now, and I am beginning to feel that I have once again become accustomed to the style of living in the U.S.  Upon my arrival to the Miami Airport, I experienced quite a culture shock.  I’m not quite sure as to what caused it, maybe all of the tall white people,  sense of security, or hearing mostly English in a large public place.  All I know is that I didn’t like it one bit, I was yearning to be back in Peru where the people seemed more personal and every trip out of the hospedaje was an adventure.

Here is a list of the top ten things that I will miss from Peru:

  1. The People – Peruvians are some of the friendliest people that I have met in all of my travels.  They were always willing to lend out a helping hand and tell you the best way to go about completing a task (maybe even an hour long demonstration if you are in Ciudad de Dios)
  2. La Barra – The infamous night club in Trujillo.  It provided our group with many nights of fun, and even better stories
  3. Sounds of Hunachaco – The entire day was full of sounds that ranged from combi drivers yelling at you to take a ride to “Trujillo, Trujillo” to the fruit salesman projecting his voice through a megaphone saying “mandarinas, mandarinas, un sol, un kilo.”  And one cannot leave out the sensation that is Peruvian Cumbia; there is not a place you can go without hearing Grupo 5
  4. Brian Billman’s Revolutionary Speeches – No town meeting is complete without Brian speaking in his flawless Spanish and stating “Poder de la comunidad!!” which is almost always followed by the raising of his fist
  5. The Coca Plant – The popular plant proved to be quite helpful during many strenuous hikes throughout the Sacred Valley
  6. 8 Hour Long Bus Rides on the Local Bus – These bus rides between various cities are full of characters, interruptions, and amazing movies.  I believe that the ride to Puno was my favorite, I was privileged enough to get to sit next to a Peruvian woman and her three year old child. This ride consisted of stops for food where women would jump on the bus and butcher an entire calf in the aisle or run around throwing pieces of bread the size of pizzas at people for 5 soles.  The two forms of entertainment were movies (Terminator and karate movies) and dietitians that would provide us with live infomercials for vitamins.
  7. The Ruins – Obviously the ruins around Cusco and Machu Picchu are amazing and worthy of making my top ten list.
  8. Town Markets – One can get lost in the Mayorista of Trujillo for hours and stumble upon some of the coolest/weirdest stuff ever.  Some people feel nervous or scared as they walk through markets, but I become overjoyed with happiness because you are able to see the locals in a real environment where they are interacting with each other and enjoying themselves. Plus the cd’s are cheap.
  9. Talking in English – Surprisingly, it is quite fun to know that nobody around you can understand what you are talking about.  This set the stage for many entertaining conversations, too bad this all had to change once we got to Cusco.
  10. The Nourish Group and Ciudad de Dios – Our group was AMAZING! The friendships that we formed with each other and the townspeople helped make the work that we did more enjoyable and productive.

Thank you,

Felipe Dest

Long Over-due

August 1, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Peru, UNC | By

Hi! So I’m very late in writing this blog, my apologies! After the project in Ciudad de Dios was over, a few of us went to Cusco for a week and then i trapised through Lima and other cities for another week by myself. I’m just now getting back to the states and I finally have some time to think and reflect on what I’ve done this past summer.

I remember how excited I was when I first heard about this project. I’m an International Studies major with concentrations in Latin America and Global Health and Environment and I’m also minoring in Environmental Sciences. Therefore, this project was exactly what I needed to get into for what I want to do in the future. Evverything that I was hoping to learn and experience from this project was so valuable and priceless. I could not have learned any better from a book or lecture. There are so many things that are necessary when working with development projects. Community involvement, community ownership, community relationships, patience,  determination, understanding the nature of third-world countries, cultural and language understanding, and so much more are necessary for a truly successful development project. I’m not sure if I would have been able to understand all of these things had I not done this trip. I realized that there are many different kinds of people that are needed for projects like this. We always need our people like Melissa or Kathryn Gelder that love to talk to people and create friendships with the ladies of the town. But we also need people like Nina and Alyson that humor the children and dance with them in parties. But then, people like Sandy and Kathryn  H.  are so very valued for their painting and community beautification skills. And then we have people like Jorge, Alex, and Felipe that try to teach children things about the water cycle or do research about the feasibility of a cooperative middle valley recycling system. Because there are so many different and unique characteristics that are needed for development work, there are also so many different and unique people that we had on our trip. I’m not quite sure what exactly it is that I want to write but I suppose I’m finally starting to understand what exactly development work involves. This project was such a wonderful and challenging experience that allowed me to see what exactly I’m studying and preparing myself for in college. I have not been discouraged from development work despite our numerous obstacles and difficulties faced in the project. Instead, the idea of the people of Ciudad de Dios receiving water which in turn will allow the children to have a teacher makes everything so worthwhile. ( I apologize for how cheesy that sounds)

One might think that after such a challenging project as this one, one would be turned off from work like this and start running in the direction of working for “the man” or some high end job that earns six figure salaries. But I have to say that I feel quite the opposite of that, I’m so excited and ready to work with projects like this. One can never know what to expect and there is something new to prepare for every single day. The people you meet, the things you experience, and things you accomplish are unforgettable.

A Good Harvest Takes Time

July 21, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Honduras, Michigan, UNC | By

Big news! Chuchi, the unofficial pet dog of the FIPAH office in Otoro has given birth to puppies!  The strange thing is that during the whole visit, we were all perfectly unaware that she was with chil… uh, pup.  While contemplating this happy occasion, I began to wonder what else was growing in Otoro without us knowing, and realized that much of our work there was all about beginnings.  We taught English lessons with the intent to inspire the youth to continue in their education, we cleared land that I’m sure already nurtures the seeds that mean vitality for so many people, and we started relationships that are sure to continue for a very long time.  I’m beginning to understand that although we still have much work we would like to do with our partners at FIPAH, much of our project this year was about the unseen.  Sometimes the best things need a little time to grow, and I believe that the seeds planted in Honduras and within all of us will continue to surprise us in beautiful ways as they mature and bloom.

Saying Goodbye

July 14, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Peru, UNC | By

Saturday was our final day in Ciudad de Dios. Today nine of us are off to Lima, leaving Melissa (our fearless leader) to bring closure to the project. I won’t even pretend to have begun processing the past few weeks, so keep checking the blog as we all try to sort through our experiences, emotions, and ideas.

Friday was our last day of working on the water system. In the morning, while we waited for a pipe delivery, we completed the mural in the Plaza de Armas. It is now 42 meters of vibrantly colored landscapes, accented with symbols of the ancient Moche culture and a stylized representation of the town itself. We climbed up a neighboring hill to get the full effect, and it really does give Ciudad de Dios a fantastic splash of color. The uniform brown of the adobe houses and dusty streets is now broken by a long vein of green and blue, and hopefully this will be the first of many community beautification and pride initiatives.

The water system is nearly completed, and we are all heartbroken to be leaving without seeing the water flow through the taps. It will certainly be finished within the next few days, but the funding crisis (which is still occurring–visit for more info) slowed our progress significantly. Melissa will update us all about how the final steps of the project go.

Yesterday the people of Ciudad threw a marvelous fiesta for us, probably the biggest the town has ever had. Saying goodbye was hard, but they certainly made sure our last day was unforgettable. After a feast of grand proportions (cuy, or guinea pig, was the main dish), we celebrated the end of our time there with dancing. The music eventually came to an end, and we made our way through the crowds to say goodbye. As we walked down the hill for the final time, dusk was quickly turning to night. It was strange to leave Ciudad that way, with the landscape and the faces of the friends we had made obscured by the darkness. I could feel my memories of the town already fading. In vain I tried to take everything in, grasping at the images that I had taken for granted every day, trying frantically to secure it all in my memory. But the vague remnants of daylight did not provide enough illumination to distinguish the brilliant colors and textures of the landscape, and it was not enough to make a final observation of the expressions on peoples faces. Climbing onto our bus, I began to panic. What if I forgot what I had seen there? As we drove away, shouting Ciao to the children that had followed us to the bus, I tried to reassure myself that I could not possibly forget all of the beauty and warmth of Ciudad, nor could I forget all of the hardship. Peering out the window into the now blackened countryside, I realized that the beauty I was earnestly seeking to sear into my memory was not the kind that was found in the physical surroundings. The connection I felt to the community, especially strong in those final hours, was not lessened by the receding daylight.

It Doesn´t Have to End

July 12, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Honduras, Michigan, UNC | By

It has been awhile since we last checked in and much has happened.  Our project for this summer came to a close with a really touching going away ceremony where Diana and I got to show off our dancing skills to the whole FIPAH community, including our other half from Otoro.  I won´t go into to the somber goodbyes and the striking absence of our dear friend Francisca, whose baleada making skills (unrivaled by any) personally sustained the Yorito group for 5 weeks.  We spent some time evaluating our project while lounging around which is where this post really comes to a head.

During the evaluation there were (of course) differences of opinion on a variety of small issues but one thing stood out: the team´s commitment to working towards continuing Nourish´s relationship with the wonderful people at FIPAH.  All of us were continually impressed by the level of integration FIPAH has with each community in which it works and the excellent work guided by consideration of all possibilities to help better those communities.  At the moment we are preparing a report that will go over what we did this summer and some ways to continue our work which we hope to have posted on the blog by the end of the month.  Until the fall we will continue discussing the direction of this partnership before presenting it to the UNC International Projects Committee.  Regardless of what happens, we will continually remember the people of Yorito and Otoro and the invaluable things we have learned by living and working with them.  Such things do not escape you.  For example, on a bus in Guatemala yesterday I couldn´t help kicking my foot back a bit and mouthing the words to “Mi Vecinita”, one of my famed dance numbers courtesy of Rio Arriba.  I´m finding it hard to wrap anything so special up so I´ll leave it at this – ¡Que le vaya bien!

In Awe

July 10, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Peru, UNC | By

The last week has been rough for everyone involved in this project.  Our exhaustion, combined with the daunting task of raising $5,000 in less than a week (which, by the way we now have half of!) has taken a toll on us.   The last few days everyone has been on edge, rightfully so.  Today, however, was our turning point (thank goodness for that, we only have two more days to work).  Although things started out a little rocky when we realized we didn’t have the key to the schoolhouse, and therefore had no access to tools or paint, they immediately started looking up when we realized we were in fact going to get 38 pipes delivered to lay today (out of 122…so only 84 more! – out of a total of over 700).

Some people began to work on finishing the mural and the rest of us began hauling pipe.  I might also mention that today was scorching hot…painfully hot, really.  So we start carrying these pipes, and we have to carry them up through the mountains where there isn’t really a trail and it’s hard enough to get your footing, let alone carry a 5-meter, three inch diameter pipe.  Each pipe has to go over 600 meters.  Needless to say, this process was tedious.  After making three trips there and back to get pipes, the sanding, scrubbing and gluing of each unit began.  At about this time I was feeling beat.  I was soaked in sweat and dreading the backfilling we were going to have to do once we laid the pipe.  (Backfilling consists of us shoveling the dirt we dug up back over the pipe, and is tedious to begin with, but really difficult when where we dug is surrounded by rock so you have to dig around the rocks or go down lower and find soft dirt to try to fill the area immediately around the pipe.)   As I sat down to try to muster up some energy, I looked up and saw people from the town coming out with their shovels and picks.  In the past we have tried to pay people 20 soles for 8 hours of labor a day.  (This is a fairly standard rate for manual labor and we thought it only fair to pay people since they were having to take off work.)  However, for the last week or so since money has been running low we have stopped hiring people from town, although a number of them volunteer and work with us anyway.  But today, there were so many of them.  When the reached the point where we were working I asked someone if they had taken the day off of work.  They informed me that they hadn’t, but they had wanted to help, so they were taking their lunch break from 12-2 to help us finish backfilling.  We had the job done in just a little over an hour.  It would have taken us all afternoon without their help.

Not only was it great to be done with the tedious labor, but it was fantastic to realize that this whole project is going to happen, and it is going to be sustainable.  All along it has been very obvious that the people of Ciudad de Dios want this water system and are willing to work for it, but until today I hadn’t really been convinced that they were going to be able to sustain it after we left.  MOCHE the non-profit has done so much to foster the community’s morale and the project that I was afraid of what might happen once we were gone.  Today though, my fears were put to rest when I saw these people stepping up and taking ownership.  We were trying to connect the pipes one way and one of the older men took over and told everyone what a better way to do it would be.  Some of the water committee members were there helping out and they were telling me about going through all of the rules they were having to figure out for the town.  People were excited and they seemed more ready for this to actually happen than they have all summer.  From what I’ve heard, Ciudad de Dios is often promised things that never happen, and I think this whole project has given them hope for the future of their community and their lives.

As I was walking back to town I was marveling at how far we’ve come this summer.  It may not seem like much, but six weeks ago this water system still hadn’t even been surveyed.  It was a mess.  We didn’t know what we were doing.  There were engineers, public health students, environmental science majors, and an array of other people all working on this project.  There were disagreements on the best way to go about things, and difficulties in getting the momentum to get the whole thing started.  Now, we are 82 pipes away from having a fully functioning water system.  But that’s not all.   On my walk back into town I saw that the mural was looking even more colorful than before.  When I made my way down there I was thrilled at what I saw.  The whole 43 meter wall (that’s a really big mural, in case you’re wondering) was looking wonderful.  On the left were people from the highlands coming down.  Ciudad de Dios was depicted as a colorful and bright place, and all of the suggestions the people gave us for the mural were being used: donkeys, cows, sheep, goats, banana trees, avocado trees, sugar cane, mountains, bright colors, cuy (guinea pigs-coveted meat), and so many more.  A number of the members in the community were out in the plaza (which is actually beginning to be treated like a plaza-there was a town effort to clean it up the other day) giggling at the colors we were using and giving us suggestions.  We’re still trying to talk some of them into trying to paint, but they all claim they’re terrible artists (obviously they haven’t seen me try to draw…I usually stick to the coloring).  And keep in mind we’re using house paint, so the colors we have force us to be creative – who knew red, brown, and white were the perfect colors for a goat?  The kids were also loving the mural and the painting today.  The attitude was fantastic-so alive.  It was ridiculously hot, and trying to paint while staring at bright green and white was difficult, but every time I looked around or just listened to the happy sounds around me, I remembered how worth it this mural was.  It’s hard to explain how a little splash of color stands out.  Everyone’s houses and any building for a long distance around is made of adobe brick.  The valley is green, but Ciudad is in the mountains and is therefore very dry and brown.  The color does wonders for the plaza and the community as a whole.  Everyone keeps telling me how much they love it.

I guess what I’m trying to explain is the awe I felt today at the change I can sense in this community and in our group as a whole.  It’s hope and excitement.   I think everyone is finally realizing the magnitude of what we have accomplished and how significant it is for the people of Ciudad de Dios.  And I am thrilled when I hear people say how much they like the mural, because the one thing that came up over and over in the first week I was here when I was asking people what they wanted most in their community, was a sense of pride.  They want to have a beautiful place to live in where people from outside want to come and visit.  I’ve never met such strong, determined, kindhearted, and humble people before in my life, and I am just so glad that our efforts combined with their community are accomplishing something that they are proud of and are excited about sustaining and growing.

I am pumped for tomorrow.  We have 82 pipes arriving, which is a lot, but who would dare limit what we can all accomplish together?  2 months ago I would’ve said a lot of things weren’t possible – digging kilometers of trenches through rocks, carrying adobe bricks long distances, painting (and making pretty) a 43 meter long mural, understanding the legal processes of Peruvian development.  Now, however, I know better.  82 pipes?  We’re talking small potatoes there…just ask anyone in Ciudad de Dios–they’re the ones who have known all along that everything we’ve wanted to do is possible.  I just think that just as they’ve shocked us with what is possible, we’ve shocked them by actually following through.


July 9, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Peru, UNC | By

We have only a few days left in Ciudad de Dios, and we are fighting to get the project finished before we leave!! Here is a message that MOCHE is sending out explaining our current struggle and how you can help:

We are currently in Northern Peru helping to construct a potable water system for Ciudad de Dios, a village of 60 displaced squatter families.  This project was organized by the non-profit organization, MOCHE, Inc., in conjunction with volunteers from Engineers Without Borders, the UNC-Chapel Hill Chapter of Nourish International, Duke Engage, and residents from the community.   Over the last month we have nearly completed the project but we need help raising $5,000 that will allow us to complete the project in July.  This amount includes of the cost of 125 three-inch pipes for the main water line (each 15 foot pipe costs USD $17) and the wages to compensate community members for part of their labor on the project.  Each family in the community works several days of free work.  In turn, we pay each family for several additional days of work.
  MOCHE has been working with this underrepresented population over the past 10 years to develop sustainable infrastructure including a primary school and roads in exchange for the protection of valuable archeological sites.  Not only will the completion of the water system improve the daily lives of the people of Ciudad de Dios, it will qualify the community’s school for government-paid teachers.  The community has worked hand-in-hand with volunteers to learn how to manage and maintain the water system.  MOCHE is helping to bring basic amenities to Ciudad de Dios as well as providing its citizens with skills and opportunities to better their economic status.   
  Community members and student volunteers have worked tirelessly to make this project a reality.  With your help, we can finish the project before by the end of July.  Time is of the essence!  Please go to PayPal now and make a tax deductible donation to [email protected] and help us bring water to Ciudad de Dios.  This is truly an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people and help an incredible organization serve those most in need. 
  All donated funds will be used to purchase pipe and pay wages to community members.  Not one cent will be used for overhead costs or project management.  All contributions are tax deductible; MOCHE, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit corporation.  Donors will receive a letter of appreciation with relevant tax information.  If you have any questions about MOCHE or would like to get more involved, please contact us at [email protected].
  Thank you for your time and donations!
    The Team at MOCHE, Inc.
  Currently in Hunachaco, Peru

A Visual Story

July 9, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Honduras, Michigan, UNC | By


A Decently Sized Snafu…

July 7, 2008 | Posted in 2008, Peru, UNC | By

We only have a week left in Ciudad de Dios! It seems like we have just arrived…and now it is almost time to leave. In the past month, we´ve done a million different things, but there is still so much left to do and a ton of stuff we had hoped to accomplish but did not.

The water system is speedily nearing its completion. All of the pipes in town have been laid, and the trenches have been refilled. All 3 km of trenches have been dug for the main pipeline, and all but 1 km of the pipes have been laid (and the trenches refilled). The springbox (or caja de captacion) has been constructed and is almost ready for use.

Despite our amazing rate of progress, we’ve hit a small snafu…well actually, a pretty decently sized snafu. A major donation that we had been counting on has fallen through, and so MOCHE is struggling to finish the project with its limited budget. There was a huge miscommunication between the project and the the organization donating–apparently they cannot give funds to a project that is already underway. We have about 200 pipes left to purchase, and at $17 a pipe that means we need $3,400. We should be able to get these pipes in the ground pretty quickly once we have the money, so we are still hoping to get the system finished before we leave a week from today. The system will get finished even if not until after we leave, but our presence means MOCHE does not have to hire additional labor (which they simply don´t have the funding for).

If you are interested in making a tax-deductible donating, go to There will be a paypal account on the site pretty soon. The website won´t be updated for a few more days, but check back with it if you would like to donate! Every dollar gets us so much closer to putting the final pipe on the line…Ciudad will have water soon!!

MOCHE built a school house for Ciudad last year, and Peruvian law states that the government mustprovide teachers for a community if the people provide a school house. However, the law also states that the school must have water in order for teachers to be provided. This means that as soon as the water system is up and running, Ciudad de Dios will be able to send its children to school in town, rather than being forced to send their children to nearby communities on foot via a busy highway.

So…since our work on the water system has slowed, we are also focusing our energy on our other endeavors…

The Water Committee is a six member team that has been elected by the community to direct the setup and maintenance of the system. They are in charge of all of the legal issues surrounding the water system, including writing the rules for water usage and registering every tap in town. The committee is more than capable of running this system successfully, but they are currently facing a lack of confidence from themselves and from the community. The constant gossip in the community makes it difficult for Committee to gather the appropriate amount of authority and respect.

Creating a sense of ownership is a big hurdle for this community, largely due to its roots as a squatter settlement and to the heavy involvement of outsiders (us) in their development. Given some time and a little push, we are hoping that the people will become increasingly more invested in their own development. There is already a sense of pride in their community and how far they have come. The Water Committee is certainly a step in the right direction, because it places responsibility for the system directly in the hands of the community.

The mural in the Plaza de Armas now has a celeste colored sky, a range of tobaco mountains, and the phrase “¡Bienvenidos a Ciudad de Dios!” emblazzoned in rojo lettering across the center. There is still a lot of wall to be painted (it is a 42 m long wall!), but we should be finished before the end of this week. It is looking fantastic so far, and our group just purchased more paint to make sure we will get the whole thing painted.

On Thursday we began our education programs with the kids! After a very chaotic but productive hour of painting with them on Wednesday, we were understandably anxious to see how our own little lesson in the escuela would go. Jorge, Felipe, and Esther did a remarkable job of corralling the rambunctious crowd into a classroom and getting them to actively participate in the lesson. After learning about the water cycle and conservation, the kids got to draw and color.

At the end of the week, we are planning to havea community-wide Water Education Day. We will be explaining the water system and why water usage and conservation are important in this region. We will also be talking about hygiene and sanitation and its importance to health. Hopefully, this session will help foster a sense of responsibility for the system and begin to get the community thinking about health issues (something MOCHE will be tackling soon…)

So…despite all of the confusion, and despite the fact that nothing ever ever goes as planned here, we are still managing to make huge strides and we are all learning some invaluable lessons. Check back for more updates on the project, and please consider donating to MOCHE!!